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Top 10 NBA Players with the Most to Gain from a Finals MVP

NBA, Lakers-Bucks, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Anthony Davis, Damian Lillard, Finals MVP
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One of the best awards a player can achieve for his legacy is an NBA Finals MVP. Although it is harder on an individual level to win league MVP, when comparing yourself to other all-time greats, what matters most is proving that you can be the best player on a championship team.

There are many players whose all-time ranking would skyrocket with a Finals MVP.

Without further ado, here are 10 players with the most to gain by winning 2024 Finals MVP.

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10. Jalen Brunson

Not very long ago, people (including myself) laughed at the fact that the Knicks signed Brunson to an expensive contract and were charged with tampering. Brunson has already silenced his doubters over the past two regular seasons and will likely make First or Second Team All-NBA this year. He also elevated himself in the playoffs last year.

The Knicks bring New York City its first championship since the Giants won the Super Bowl in 2011. It would also be the Knicks’ first title since 1973. In this hypothetical scenario, Brunson would join Willis Reed as the only Knick to ever win Finals MVP. While it may seem premature, a Finals MVP for Brunson would probably make him a top-four Knick of all time, only behind Reed, Walt Frazier, and Patrick Ewing.

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By bringing New York a championship, Brunson would earn the “King of New York” title for a while.

9. Anthony Davis

Even though Davis is not the best player on his team, do not count him out of the race for Finals MVP. As of now, Davis is one of 41 players to secure four All-NBA First Team honors. Only 17 of those players have at least two championships and a Finals MVP.

Davis already made the official NBA Top 75 list a couple of years ago amidst public uproar. Winning this award would push him closer to the top-50 range.

8. Damian Lillard

After demanding his way out of Portland, Lillard has disappointed with the Bucks this year. However, he can fully redeem himself. Everyone will completely forget about the regular season if he excels in the playoffs and wins Finals MVP. Lillard is one of 73 players to make seven All-NBA teams and earn First Team All-NBA once. Only 20 of those have a Finals MVP.

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Lillard would be higher on this list if not for Giannis Antetokounmpo. Right now, this is still Antetokounmpo’s team. A Finals MVP can only weigh so much when you were not the best player for the entire season.

7. Jayson Tatum

The player with the most pressure has plenty to gain with a Finals MVP. He should make First or Second Team All-NBA this year, good for his fourth honor. If he were to win Finals MVP, he would join 21 players with four All-NBA selections, two All-NBA First Team honors, and Finals MVP. Of those 21 players, only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, Tim Duncan, Dwyane Wade, Kawhi Leonard, and Antetokounmpo won their Finals MVP before turning 27.

Anything less than a championship for the Celtics would be a failure. But if they win it all with Tatum winning Finals MVP? He will begin to put his name in the conversation with some all-time greats.

6. Kawhi Leonard

Leonard has had one of the weirdest careers ever. When healthy, he is a top-five player in the NBA. In addition, there are few better playoff risers than him. Unavailability has prevented him from reaching his full potential, but even with his injuries, he is undoubtedly a first-ballot Hall of Famer and has accomplished a ton.

Leonard should make another All-NBA Team this year, his sixth. He will be one of 41 players with at least six All-NBA honors and three First Team All-NBA selections. All of this is just a result of his regular-season play. With a Finals MVP, it would be his third time winning one. There are only five players with at least three: Michael Jordan, LeBron James, Magic Johnson, Tim Duncan, and Shaquille O’Neal. Another Finals MVP wouldn’t put Leonard in the same tier as those players, but that is some elite company nonetheless.

As of now, I have Leonard ranked just outside the top 30 all-time. With another Finals MVP, he would begin to creep into some top-20 discussions.

5. Kevin Durant

Speaking of hard players to rank, Durant has even more to gain with a Finals MVP. He will likely make his 11th All-NBA team this year, making him one of 14 players with 11 All-NBAs and six First Team All-NBA honors. His longevity and dominance in the regular season alone make him a top-20 player of all-time.

But let’s be honest: as dominant as Durant was in 2017 and 2018, he will never get all of his flowers until he wins another title as the best player on his team. If he ever does that, it will be great for his legacy. As of now, he is the 13th-greatest player of all-time. Between a third Finals MVP and his regular-season accomplishments, Durant would be mentioned in a lot of “top 10 of all-time” debates.

4. Luka Doncic

Doncic is one of the most fascinating players in the league. On one hand, he just finished his sixth regular season and is about to be awarded his fifth First Team All-NBA selection. Only 28 NBA players have ever done this, and most of them had to play at least eight or 10 years to accomplish such a feat. He has also finished in the top eight in MVP voting every year.

By adding a Finals MVP to his resume, he would become the 15th player in NBA history with five All-NBA First Teams and a Finals MVP. On the other hand, people think his ceiling is limited because he is too ball-dominant and is a pretty bad defender. If he were to win a Finals MVP, he would shut up all of those douters.

3. Giannis Antetokounmpo

Let’s put legacy talk aside for a second. So many people have counted out Antetokounmpo and the Bucks since he hurt his calf. If he were to get healthy and lead the Bucks to a title, it would be an awesome comeback story.

Antetokounmpo should earn his eighth All-NBA selection and sixth All-NBA First Team honors. If he were to win Finals MVP, it would be his second. How many players have at least eight All-NBA Teams, six All-NBA First Teams, two MVPs, and two Finals MVPs? Six, and you may have heard of them before: Jordan, James, Johnson, Duncan, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Larry Bird. (Jordan is the only player in that mix with a Defensive Player of the Year award.)

I’m not sure if Antetokounmpo would be on any of those six players’ levels with a Finals MVP because of some playoff shortcomings. However, he is already in some top-20 all-time talks. With another Finals MVP, he would enter top-15 talks and could enter the top-10 range within a couple of years.

2. Nikola Jokic

Believe it or not, Jokic did not make the NBA’s 75th Anniversary Team before the 2021-22 season. At the time, nearly nobody said that he got snubbed. After all, his only major accolade was the MVP award he had just won. (Even that award didn’t sit will with some people.) Needless to say, I cannot remember someone who has climbed the rankings so quickly.

To continue the theme of comparing legacies, Jokic is about to win his third MVP. Do you know which players have three MVPs and two Finals MVPs? Here’s the answer: Jordan, James, Abdul-Jabbar, Bird, and Johnson. These are my top five players of all time, and there’s not much debate there.

Similar to Antetokounmpo, Jokic finds himself in some top-20 talks already. With another Finals MVP, he would likely cement himself inside the top 15 (and eventually in the top 10).

1. Joel Embiid

Enbiid has the most to gain from winning Finals MVP, but not entirely because of all-time rankings. Even though he would join only 18 players with an MVP and Finals MVP, he would not enter top-20 talks or even top-30 talks. However, it would destroy brutal narratives (some justifiable) against him.

Embiid has been in the MVP discussion since 2021 and is 27th all-time in MVP shares. With his regular season accomplishments alone, he is 65th on my all-time list. Embiid has never made a Conference Finals and has played poorly in some elimination games, but just one Finals MVP would make people forget about most of his playoff shortcomings. While Embiid would not jump as much in the rankings as Jokic, Antetokounmpo, or Leonard would, a Finals MVP would tear down some negative narratives.


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Tyronn Lue, NBA
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